Friday, December 30, 2011

Learning from Verizon's Experience: 5 Lessons for School Leaders About Social Media

Verizon’s decision to not charge customers a $2 convenience fee is a lesson about power of social media, for all of us, including 21st century school leaders.(See MSNBC’s Article “Verizon Drops $2 Convenience Fee.”) As authors Randy Beal and Judy Strauss write in Radically Transparent: Managing and Monitoring Reputations Online, “The Internet provides a megaphone for the disgruntled---with no entry barrier, little legal accountability, instant commentary, full multimedia communication, and a free distribution channel to millions worldwide.” Verizon heard that megaphone and decided to let customers know they were listening.

When Verizon decided to announce a $2 fee, they ran right into thousands of consumers yelling loudly through the power of social media. As a Verizon customer, I even joined in a bit myself. Ultimately though, Verizon did what is probably the smartest thing they could do. They issued a statement that said, “At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute a fee at this time.” That is probably a textbook answer and response to a crowd empowered by social media. The company did not continue to try to defend the fee. They immediately acknowledged a change in course. That alone demonstrates one important principle described by authors Beal and Strauss, and that is: Your customers have to feel like you are listening to them. By announcing their plans to not charge a fee they clearly demonstrate their willingness to listen. Verizon should gain more positives from this response than any 2 dollar fee would ever give them.

The whole Verizon incident illustrates perfectly what Beal and Strauss say in Radically Transparent about the 21st century medium, “Social media are like word-of-mouth on steroids.” Businesses have known for a long time the power of plain word of mouth. Schools and their leaders would do well to pay attention to this power too.

Besides some great lessons for those studying the power of social media and marketing though, there are lessons for 21st century school leaders from the Verizon Incident too.
  • There is a conversation online about you or your school/district and you may not know it is even happening. Beal and Strauss advocate for taking steps to listen to this conversation. In a previous post, (The Oft-Ignored 21st Century Leadership for School Leaders), I offered some suggestions on how to do that. Yet, too many school leaders, from the district level to the school level, are still ignoring social media and considering it a fad. They spend too much time finding ways to limit access to it and dismissing its impact, when they should embrace and accept it as a fact of life. The bottom line to this one is simple: ignore that online conversation to the peril of your school and perhaps yourself.
  • Even though there is a conversation about you or your school/district online, you can’t control its direction. Too many school leaders and policymakers still think they can control the direction of this online conversation. They create all manner of rules and laws trying to keep the conversation at a minimum. They even try lawsuits when something is said that is objectionable. Ultimately, neither rules, policy, nor lawsuits are going to stop that conversation. Instead, 21st century school leaders need to learn how to respond effectively to social media. They need to fight fire with fire so to speak.
  • You cannot control that conversation; the best you can hope for is to effectively respond to it. What does an effective response to a less-than-flattering social media posting look like? Well, those using social media don't like spin. They don't like attempts to hide behind the law or authority. The best way to respond is perhaps to open up and be what Beal and Strauss call "being radically transparent." That means being honest with people and not looking like you are still trying to hide something. That means being as honest as possible and avoiding "educationalese" or jargon. 
  • Be careful of your response to that conversation. As Beal and Strauss point out, “The Internet community comes down hard on those who employ conversation spin, control, manipulation, or spam.” Should we find ourselves in a "Verizon-like-situation," a careful, well-thought-out response is a must. Social media has created a “no-spin zone” of sorts where spin is at your own risk. Taking time to plan a response is a must. There is no room for knee-jerk answers.
  • As Beal and Strauss emphasize repeatedly in their book, “Be radically transparent or risk your reputation and top line.” This means using plain language, being sincere, and being candid. No generic marketing messages allowed. Welcome responses and feedback. As school leaders you have to work hard to build relationships with your community through social media, and that means being transparent.
Recently quite a few people and organizations have run headlong into the power of social media. Besides this event with Verizon, Bank of America found out firsthand the power of social media when it proposed additional fees on its customers. Then there was Lowes and its decision to pull ads from the Muslim American reality show. They also found out about the "steroid-effect" of online communication.Finally, ask Governor Brownback of Kansas, his staff,  and the poor principal who tried to force student Emma Sullivan to write that letter of apology. In every single one of these instances, an organizational or personal reputation was on the line.The one thing in common is how the organization or individual responded and resulting effect on their reputation. Social media is here to stay, and school leaders who learn to effectively use it will be more successful communicators to their stakeholders and they may perhaps head a reputation crisis too.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

5 Common Sense Twitter Tips for School Leaders & Educators

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach writes in her book, The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, "We can reach out to our network, harvest the collective wisdom found there, and then bring it back to the school."  Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach is right. There is a great deal of collective wisdom on the web, and those in a position to tap into that network of wisdom and expertise are those who know how to engage effectively in 21st century social networking tools. School leaders who continue to ignore or dismiss this powerful microblogging tool, are literally missing out on an excellent opportunity to join in the collective wisdom of thousands of educators who are already connected. Setting up a Twitter account is rather easy to do, but using it as a networking tool is a complicated process that takes time and effort.

To administrators who have added getting their Twitter account established to their 2012 Things to Get Done Resolution List, I offer these 5 Common Sense Tips to help in that endeavor.

Establish separate Twitter accounts for your personal-professional use and for your school or district.  I realize many administrators and educators establish Twitter accounts using their school name or district affiliation, and that is the only account they use. This practice is not an issue as long as the Tweets generated using this account represent the business and interests of the organization. I prefer having separate accounts for my school and for myself, and I try to make it clear that any Tweeting done with my personal-professional account is not as an agent of my school. I might refer to my school or colleagues occasionally, but my @21stprincipal account is not the official account for my school. My school has its own account, and all communication that issues from that account is official school business. For me, at least, it is an important distinction. Having separate accounts is a way for me use Twitter more effectively.

Establish very clear purposes for each of your Twitter accounts. Once your Twitter accounts are established, it is important to make sure each has its own clear purpose. To be honest, my personal-professional Twitter account, @21stprincipal, came about as I began experimenting with Twitter. I’ve had the account as far back as 2008, and my purpose in setting it up was not to serve as a way communicate in my school role. It was established, at least initially, as a way to experiment with the medium. Its purpose has evolved over the subsequent years to become a way to engage other educators in a professional learning network, and to engage individuals elsewhere in a discussion about education and other issues of interest. My school Twitter account has two main purposes. One is to share events and happenings at the school. It is a communication tool that allows me and my teachers to communicate quickly and easily with the community. Secondly, it is a promotional tool as well. It allows me to promote our school to an ever growing and wider community. My two Twitter accounts serve two entirely different purposes based on my role either as an agent of the school or as an interested educator and individual engaging with others outside of the school.

Engage in meaningful conversations through thought-provoking Tweets. Once you have establish a Twitter account, you have to use it. I would suggest posting more than your current location or what you’re eating for lunch though. Often, being thought-provoking just means posting an interesting quote from a book you’re reading, or a statement made by a public figure. These kinds of statements, or questions, often engage others who comment back. In a short time, it is easy to get caught in a two, three or many-way conversation with other Tweeters. Engaging, thoughtful tweets go a long way in getting you connected with others on Twitter.

Participate in Twitter chats such as #edchat or #leadershipchat. There are actually a large number of events called “Twitter Chats” happening throughout the week, and at different times. To participate in these events, you need only include that chat’s hashtag with your tweet and those in the chat can follow your contributions too. (Here’s a description of hashtags and how they work for those who’ve never used them.) Many Twitter chat events, like the weekly #edchat that occurs every Tuesday at 12 noon and 7 pm, engage a sometimes rather dizzying number of participants, but the fun is in engaging in the conversation, not to mention that once the chat is over, you can obtain a copy of the entire conversation to review later. Twitter chats are opportunities to engage others in conversations that matter to you.

Share your thoughts, resources, and reading with your followers. As I mentioned earlier, thought-provoking tweets are important. But engaging others using Twitter is rather simple. You can use it to share your thinking on the latest reform efforts. You can share some web resources you’ve found. You can share favorite quotes from a book you’re reading. You can even retweet (which means to resend) those tweets that you find useful or otherwise worth sharing. The truth is you have to share a bit of yourself with others to grow a professional learning network. That means sharing more than what you had for lunch.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

3 New Year’s Resolutions for 21st Century School Leaders

As 21st century school leaders, the New Year gives us the opportunity to declare the direction we are going to move as 21st century educational leaders in our schools and districts. While there are certainly other areas to consider as we make New Year Resolutions as school leaders, here's three I consider imperative.

Social Media
In the coming year, it’s time to begin a genuine examination of the place social media has in your professional life and practice. Maybe it’s time to quit thinking narrowly of all the negatives that can happen when educators engage in social media use, and begin to look at potentials. Social media is here to stay in one form or another. It is time to move beyond trying to find ways to keep social media out, and engage in its use and encourage others to do the same. It’s time to quit wasting energy trying to keep social media out of our schools and embrace it as just another way to engage our students, parents, and community.

WiFi Access for Students
As bandwidth has become more available, it is time for us to look for ways to provide WiFi access for our students. As 21st century leaders, we need to provide an environment where our students and staff can remain plugged-in and powered-up rather than unplugged and powered-down. We need to make it a priority to find ways to give our students WiFi access within our school buildings and connectivity with their own devices. It takes a special, creative, 21st century leader to provide this access, keep our students safe, and teach students how to connect responsibly.

Explore and Move to the Cloud
One of our goals as 21st century leaders is take the limited resources we have, and provide the most with those resources. The cloud provides us the biggest opportunity to do that. The 21st century leader fearlessly explores cloud-based services and opportunities. Allowing Google to maintain email services or Microsoft maintain Office apps online is the future. We have a responsibility as 21st century leaders to deploy our resources in a manner that makes the most sense, and that gives us the biggest return for our investment. This school year, all 21st century school leaders need to commit to exploring the possibilities of cloud-based solutions and engage in their use whenever possible.

Being a school leader in 21st century schools is exciting. There are so many opportunities to for our own growth and exploration. As you make your New Year's resolutions, what areas would you add to this list for 21st leadership resolutions?

Monday, December 26, 2011

3 Alternatives for TweetDeck as Your Twitter App

Ever since Twitter updated TweetDeck into its current manifestation, there have been many, including me, who have been disappointed with the new product. I immediately began experimenting with several alternatives, yet none of them have completely replaced the ease with which I used TweetDeck. In my explorations for an alternative, I have used more than just the three below, but these three seem to be the ones I personally have continued to use. It seems, being able to modify Hootsuite so that it has the feel of being a desktop app, makes it my go-to Twitter app for the time being.
  • Silver Bird (Twitter Extension for Chrome Browser): Silver Bird offers users access to Twitter by clicking a button on their browser extension toolbar. Users can do everything you can in the other apps. They can receive real time updates. They can choose between three themes for the app. There are even update notification options on the browser button and in the window when receiving a mention. This is a simple, but highly functional app for accessing and using Twitter. Check out Silver Bird in the Chrome Web Store (Silver Bird Page in Web Store).
Chrome Extension Silver Bird Interface
  • Seesmic Desktop: Seesmic offers a fairly straighforward interface with this product. It is as easy to use as TweetDeck in my opinion. Users enjoy many of the same features such as realtime updates, adding custom columns, adjusting font size, and customizing backgrounds. There are even desktop notifications. The interface for this app is similar in layout to the old Tweetdeck in some ways, with the input bar at the top, with the columns arranged underneath. Adding a search column for chats such as #edchat is rather easy too. The only issue I’ve had with this product is an occasional unexplained app crash, so it suffers for me just a bit in the reliability department.
Seesmic Desktop Interface
  • Hootsuite: When I was experiencing crashing difficulties with TweetDeck, several other Twitter users tweeted, “Use Hootsuite.” I’ve used Hootsuite on all of my devices before, but the one thing I did not like about the app was that it was a browser-based app, and there are times when I close my browser, I like to have the Twitter app running separately. I could have simply opened Hootsuite as a separate tab in its own browser Window, but it turns out you can make the browser-based Hootsuite look like a desktop app by following these simple instructions from Hootsuite. (Making Hootsuite Look Like a Desktop App)
Hootsuite Converted to a Desktop App Look
Out of the three options, I can easily see that by modifying Hootsuite into a desktop like app makes it the most attractive option for me right now.

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Kindle iPad App Just Got Better! Must for Every Educator

The new Kindle iPad app just became even better. After the latest Kindle iPad app update, Kindle owners and Kindle app users will be pleased with these two additional features.
  • Read your magazines on your iPad in your Kindle. Before this update, I was unable to access my magazines on the iPad Kindle app. Now, users can access their Newsstand items too.
  • Send documents to your Kindle and now read them on your iPad. Before the update, I was only able to do this on my Kindle. Now, users can access any documents they send to their Kindle account. Add the Chrome Extension, Send to Kindle, and you can easily send Web items to read later using your iPad. I now can easily read those PDF reports right in my iPad Kindle app.
New Kindle iPad App Document Interface
Those two added features add a great deal of functionality to the iPad app. Great job Amazon! Thanks for giving users more and more features in your Kindle App.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twitter Releases More Stable TweetDeck Update: No More Crashes!

TweetDeck crashes seem to be fixed with Twitter’s update to version 1.1. Earlier this week I posted that TweetDeck fans might want to wait before downloading and installing the new TweetDeck native Windows app. It constantly crashed when I used it on my Windows 7 64-Bit laptop, and it crashed on the Windows XP computer I used at work as well. As of today, I have installed the updated version that came out today and have not had any crashes. Still, there are some features from the old Air version I miss. Hopefully, Twitter will find a way to include them in their new desktop app. Here’s just a few that I and others have stated they would like to see included.
  • The input Windows at the top of the screen is gone and is replaced with a button, that when clicked, a pop-up window appears. I personally liked the input window at the top and would like to see it placed there again. There are times when I need to look back at a Tweet as I am posting one. I can’t do that now because the pop-up input screen is in the way.
  • There is no right-click menu. I miss this one, especially when I want to paste a link in a post. I have to resort to using Ctrl-V for pasting, but I suppose I can get used to that.
  • The size of the columns and window are fixed and can’t be adjusted. I often adjusted the column sizes to fit the screen when I had multiple windows open for multiple apps. That’s not possible with the new fixed TweetDeck window and columns.
  • Some have complained about not being able to customize the colors of the new TweetDeck interface. Honestly, I rarely used this feature, but we all like to personalize things, so I could understand some missing this feature.
New TweetDeck Screen
Ultimately, I am happy I can now run TweetDeck without it crashing every five minutes or so, but Twitter, needs to realize that besides stability, there were other features that made TweetDeck a fan of so many.

The Oft-Ignored 21st Century Leadership Skill for School Leaders

There is one 21st century leadership skill very few have considered: managing and monitoring a school or school district’s online reputation. Most of the time, administrators are in “reactive” mode when it comes to sudden, unwanted attention to their schools brought about due to some online Web posting to a blog or social media. This often means the damage is  already done way before they were even aware that there was a problem. It is the 21st Century School Leader who uses technology to monitor their school or school district's online reputation.

Authors Andy Beal and Dr. Judy Strauss write in their book Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online, “There’s a conversation about you online right this minute and you are probably unaware of its contents.”  This truth extends to schools as well. We have constituents posting and talking about our schools online . In fact, because our constituent groups probably among the highest users of blogs, YouTube, and social media sites, we are perhaps even more likely to have people engaged in “conversations” about us online. That makes monitoring what our students, parents, teachers, community members are saying about us even more important.

While we can’t control what people say about us online, we can monitor it and perhaps proactively address it when it happens. In the book, What Every School Leader Needs to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media, Will Richardson and Karl Fisch write, “Among the myriad duties most school administrators have is reputation management, keeping an ear to the ground to stay apprised of issues that concern their school community and intervening when necessary.” This task can be monumental considering the massive amount of information being published on the Web daily, but here’s 4 suggestions school leaders might use to keep at eye on what is being posted and published about their schools or districts online.
  • Set Up Google Alert for Mentions of Your School or School District: Google Alerts is a simple, free tool from Google that allows you to monitor specific search words and have the results delivered to your email inbox or to your Google Reader. (Here’s help for those wanting to learn how to set up Google Alerts.) With Google Alerts you can monitor Web Content, News Items, Blogs, Video, and Groups at the same time. You simply enter the name of your school or district into the alert, and Google will deliver the results to your email inbox or to your Google Reader. In theory, if someone published an article or blog post that mentions your school or district, you will receive a link to that post and be able to review it yourself.
  • Use Google Search to Capture Key Words Related to Your District and Subscribe to That Search as RSS Feed:  This strategy works in much the same way Google Alerts does, but the difference is you enter your school or school district name into Google Search and subscribe to the results in your RSS Feed reader. You only need to check your reader when new results are delivered. This allows school leaders to monitor using Google's powerful Web indexing to listen for specific mentions of their schools or districts.
  • Conduct a Search in YouTube for Your School or District and Subscribe to That Search in Your RSS Feed Reader: Just like the other tools, this one delivers those search results to your RSS Feed Reader. It is important to be sure to subscribe to variations and other nicknames of your school.  When someone posts a video somehow tied to your school, you will be notified through your RSS Feed. When I used this search, I immediately found a couple of videos created by students at my school. Though they were harmless, and actually quite creative, I am glad to know they're there.
  • Use the Search Tool to search blogs, the public Twitter stream, Facebook, images, and the general buzz about your school or district. This one is new to me. It is basically a search engine that allows to search for words or phrases in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, images, or elsewhere. I searched for a local high school using this tool and got immediate returns in all these categories, including recent Tweets and Facebook posts. You can check out IceRocket for yourself at
As our schools and districts move further into the 21st century, it is imperative that our school leaders develop the skills to manage and monitor their schools and school district’s reputation online.  There was a time when word-to-mouth talk about a school was limited to the local community. But as Beal and Strauss indicate in Radically Transparent, “Word-of-mouth was previously spread among friends and families, but now extends across continents to the masses with a click of a mouse.” Furthermore, “Social media are like word-of-mouth on steroids.” Today, what people are saying about our schools is not limited to local chatter, but extends globally. As 21st century school leaders we must listen to what our constituent groups are saying about us in our community, but also what they are saying about us online too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You May Want to Wait Before Using the New Tweetdeck by Twitter

If you are thinking about upgrading your Adobe Air Tweetdeck app to the new Desktop Tweetdeck from Twitter, WAIT! This is one time I think it will pay to hold on to your old Tweetdeck until Twitter has had time to work out all the bugs in their new version of Tweetdeck that ditches Air and operates natively in Windows.

I downloaded, installed and tested the new Tweetdeck on my Windows 7 machine, and like a lot of Tweetdeck fans, I immediately noticed a number of my favorite features gone from the new version. Others have better captured those missing features than I. (“The New Tweedeck Is Tweet Trash”, “Twitter Buys Tweetdeck, Takes Several Steps Backwards”.) Some have even posited some interesting theories as to why Twitter has so drastically changed Tweetdeck, Four Unfortunate Ways Twitter Is Killing Tweetdeck.

Personally, I am a Tweetdeck fan from way back. It is one of application always running on my desktop, but that did not happened with this new version. It CRASHED so many times over a week’s period I lost count. I tried all the usual fixes. The uninstall/reinstall routine, the anti-virus setting adjustments, the desktop adjustments, etc. It still crashed. I looked for help and support online and found none. I messaged the @Tweetdeck developers through Twitter and two days later I got this message, “Thanks for the information; we’ve filed this bug with an engineer and hope to have it resolved soon. Stay tuned!” Meanwhile,  Tweetdeck the New will not run on my 64-Bit Windows 7 laptop. So I reinstalled Tweetdeck the Old and have not had a single problem since.

Tweetdeck the Old Screen
I’ve relearned an old lesson you would have thought I knew by now, “New does not necessarily mean better.” That is perfectly illustrated in what Twitter has done to my beloved Tweetdeck app. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media

For the administrator who would like a general, not-too-technical overview of digital technology and social media, the book What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media, edited by Scott McLeod and Chris Lehmann is the answer. It provides answers to the administrator who feels just a bit lost when someone starts talking about blogs, wikis, or Twitter, or who isn’t quite sure about all this talk about 1:1 initiatives, open source software, or using mobile phones in the classroom. What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media is an excellent, easy-to-read resource for every administrator and teacher-leader’s library.

This book is an extensive odyssey through all of the hot topics in instructional technology right now. Readers are provided with a complete overview of the field, in short-easy-to-read chapters. Various authors, most of them techno-gurus in their fields, write chapters that provide concise descriptions of digital tools like blogs, wikis, social media, RSS Feeds, online courseware, and many others. In each of these chapters are practical take-back-to-your-school tips, guidelines, and ideas for integration and implementation. There are also links to many of the most well-known digital and social media tools. At the end of every chapter, are lists of  resources for those who would like to explore further.

There are other books available that provide a survey similar to what is offered in What Every School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media, but none of them are written just for administrators and focus specifically on the technology as this one does. It is a small book that provides big answers to both administrators and teacher leaders wanting to see what possibilities digital technologies and social media offers the educator and school leader of the 21st century.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Migrating to Cloud-Based Online Tool Suites Is a No-Brainer for School Districts

Would your school district like to save money and cut down on technology-related and technology support costs? Think about what a school district IT department could get accomplished if they never had to worry about administering or troubleshooting your district email server again. Or, what if there were no need to purchase all those office suite PC licenses again? There are a growing number of cloud-based “Online Tool Suites” available to school districts, and "going-to-cloud" makes a great deal of sense for school leaders looking to save money, increase the number of online tools available to staff, and to bolster security.

There are quite of few reasons for moving to a cloud-based “Online Tools Suite” as opposed to using locally installed and maintained applications. Here's three good reasons to move to a cloud-based online tool suite from my perspective since our district moved to Google Apps well-over a year ago.
  • Cost savings can be enormous. When a school district moves to the cloud for email alone, there's savings in maintenance and hardware costs for such things as email servers and network infrastructure. Such a move also eliminates the need for maintaining and troubleshooting these services too. With a service like Google Apps, backup of email is also less problematic, and as applications like Google Docs continue to improve, there may be even less need to pay for software licenses for office suites as well, not to mention no need to worry about updates and troubleshooting for these applications.
  • Using cloud-based online tool suites allows for more streamlined collaboration and sharing. Online tool suites offer a variety of collaboration tools within their applications and the ability to easily share projects. Our district's use of Google Docs has meant using the online tools to share things like meeting agendas, schedules, and address lists. Also, it has meant being able to collaborate online in the creation of other documents like school improvement plans and handbooks. Sharing documents without attachments has also been greatly simplified. Online tool suites like Google Apps adds an entirely new dimension to collaborating as professionals.
  • Online tool suites like Google Apps offer users an increasingly wide variety of tools highly suited for education organizations. Email, Google Talk, Google Sites, among many others that make up the Google Apps suite make communication within and without the organization more seamless. Google calendar with its sharing feature makes scheduling school and district events much easier. Google Docs is perfectly suited for the education organization where collaboration and team work have become even more important. More importantly, as Google refines and introduces more and more apps, our district is in a perfect position to take advantage of them.
Of course, one of the biggest concerns many have with a move to a cloud-based online tool suite is security. One reason for this is that once someone starts talking about moving data out of the physical proximity of the central office servers, a sense of panic begins to rise up. There's some kind of comfort in having the actual storage of data on your own real estate. Then, questions begin to arise like this one: “What do we do if someone gets our data, especially data that would place our district in violation of FERPA?” That is a legitimate concern of course. However, if the truth be known, companies like Google have much better resources for maintaining the security of data than school districts. Their resources for maintaining cloud security are almost unlimited, whereas in times of declining budgets, school districts do well just to maintain what they have. Maintaining security is ongoing and requires both ongoing monetary and physical resource costs to keep data systems secure and current. It just makes sense to allow a larger company who make it their business to keep data secure and store it. Besides companies like Google can’t afford massive data breaches and violations of data security so you can count on the fact that they consider security of the utmost importance.

I am not necessarily promoting Google Apps over other online tool suites. There are others available such as Zoho and Microsoft Office 365. Since I am most familiar with Google Apps I refer most often to its features, and offer the list of resources about Google Apps below.

Google Apps for Education Web Site
Google Apps for Education Community
Google Apps for Education Training Center

Perhaps others can suggest or express their experiences with other cloud-based online tool suites. How have  these solutions worked in your district or organization?

In the 21st century moving to cloud-based online tool suites just makes sense. In the age of declining budgets and limited resources, it is the very thing a 21st century leader will do.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Free and Easy to Use QR-Code Generator for Chrome Browser

Earlier in the week I posted “My 11 Favorite Chrome Browser Apps and Extensions” and several posts this week about my favorite Chrome apps and extensions. After that posting, someone suggested another app to that list: the QR-Code Generator app. (See the Chrome Web Store Link.)

Chrome Web App: QR-Code Generator Screenshot

There is a great deal of excitement recently about the possibilities of using QR-Codes as an instructional tool in the classroom, especially with the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads that give users the ability to read these codes.  Still, I’ve been pondering just how I might incorporate the use of QR-codes in my role as administrator. I have experimented by posting links to outside documents using a QR-code before but that is about the extent of my experimentation with them at this point.

The QR-Code Generator App has me again pondering how to use these codes because it is so easy to use. This app allows users to generate QR-Codes for free text, URLs, phone numbers, SMS (text messages), and contacts. It is simply a matter of entering the information, and the app gives you a QR-Code, ready to be read with code-reader software.

Guess Who?
So, applications for 21st century administrators? Some ideas that come to mind include: contact lists for students and staff, schedules, and URL sharing as a start. I’ve just began to experiment with the QR-Code Generator, so I’m not sure of it’s uses yet, but I do enjoy playing with it. Maybe some readers have ideas on how to use QR-Codes in the role of administrator.

Our Test-Centric Approach to Education Reform Ignores the Real Problems

The one lesson politicians should have learned from No Child Left Behind, is that when all of your energies and resources are turned to just improving test scores, failure is the result.  As education historian Diane Ravitch states eloquently in her book, The Death and the Life of the Great American School System, ”Our schools will not improve if we rely exclusively on tests as the means of deciding the fate of students, teachers, principals, and schools.” Sadly, I’m not sure our current political leaders have learned the lesson yet that schools will not improve by solely focusing on using test scores and standards to improve them.

Our national education policy is still dominated by a “test-centric” approach to reform that ignores so many other factors that impact education such as poverty, inadequate health care, and lack of gainful employment. According to education scholar Linda Darling-Hammond, “The United States has the highest poverty rate for children among industrialized nations,” (The Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond, 2010). We want to “Race to the Top” but we’re looking for short cuts to get there. We want standards and “better tests” but we don’t want to engage in the hard, difficult work of addressing poverty, lack of health care, lack of good, affordable housing, and lack of opportunity for jobs with living wages. As long as national education policy is driven by a blind belief in test results and national standards, 10 years from now, we will be either staring at the same dismal  conditions both educationally and economically if we’re lucky, or we will be much worse with a society with an even wider gap between those that have and those that have not.

What then is the answer? Just how bad are things in different parts of the country? This morning I stumbled upon a 5-year initiative by the American Federation of Teachers and partners like Cisco, Blue Cross Blue Shield, College Board, among many others, that focuses on the educational improvement of an entire community ravaged by unemployment, lost opportunity and lost promise. McDowell County West Virginia has not fared well at all since 1980 and that community is the focus of this initiative.

While it is easy to become entangled in the debate about the role of teachers unions in education when debating education policy, I think it is admirable that the AFT and its partners are putting into practice what they’ve been trying to make politicians understand all along; education reform must do more than focus on test scores and standards. It has to also address the dreadful conditions some of our fellow US citizens find themselves living in.

With this post, I am not taking sides in the debate about unions per se. I do believe, after 20+ years experience, and seeing countless students struggling to live in forgotten communities without the basics most of us take for granted, that the answer to our problems as a country lies, not in investing in more and different tests, or in national standards, but in focusing on the crushing problems facing our poorest students.

After watching the video below about “Reconnecting McDowell” I was reminded of an incident that happened in one of the schools where I once worked. I walked by a table during lunch one day, and a young 11 year old girl sat there with her head down. She had enormous tears in her eyes. I walked up, leaned down and asked her to step out the lunchroom for a minute. Once out of the hearing of others, I asked, “What’s wrong?” Through her tears, she blurted, “I don’t have any lunch money. My parents didn’t have any to give me.” She proceeded to tell me that when she went through the lunch line, the cafeteria took her plate away and refused to serve her lunch because she owed so much money. I took her back through the lunch line and told her to get anything she wanted, and that it would be taken care of. You can debate all you want about why a child does not have money to eat. You can accuse her parents of not taking care of her, but the reality for her is she was not going to be able to eat that day, and a focus on raising her test scores was not going to change that reality.

As I understand it, Reconnecting McDowell is an effort to try to improve the education of a community, and not do it by just focusing on test scores. It is an effort to focus on poverty, healthcare, housing, and  a broken community. I have been to McDowell County West Virginia and have seen firsthand all that the video describes. That is why this effort caught my attention. Poverty is real, and those of us who have worked in schools where it exists know its faces.

Link to Reconnecting McDowell Web Site.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

5 Indications Your Leadership Is Obsolete for 21st Century Schools

In October, I posted “Top 10 Signs Your School Is Caught in a Time Warp: List for School Leaders.” Of course the whole idea behind that post was to call attention to those leadership proclivities that are actually hindering movement toward a 21st century learning environment.

Now, let me be just a bit more direct in this post. Here’s the list of indications that your school leadership is obsolete and in need of a big upgrade.

1. You actually find yourself defending school policies that ban the use of cell phones in your building. Cell phone bans need to go the way of the slate and chalkboards. Instead of prowling the halls to catch students with cell phones out, how about getting students to use them constructively? Besides, if a cell phone disrupts class, it is the user that actually disrupts the class, not the phone. Cell phone bans are a waste of administrative energy and time.

2. You defend adamantly the use of Internet filters on your school networks. I know all about the CIPA compliance issues and all, but perhaps your leadership is just a bit outdated and your knowledge of computers inadequate if you actually think filters work. Let’s face it, most districts put filters on their networks, not because they work, but because they allow them to keep their funding. If you really want to know whether your Internet filters are working, just ask a student. The smile on their face says a great deal. Heck, some of them might even show you one way they use to get to Facebook even though it’s supposed to be blocked.

3. You brag about the number of computers, smartboards, or iPads you have in your building. I have to point the finger to myself a bit on this one. It’s darn hard to resist boasting about your computer-to-student ratio when a fellow administrator brags about his, but the truth is, it really doesn’t matter if you have 3 computers to every student if no one is using them effectively for learning. Administrators have historically boasted about needing an iPad for every student or a laptop for every student. I’ve even heard school principals boast about having Smartboards in every classroom. Truth is, it’s not the numbers that matter; it’s what students and teachers are doing with those devices that matters.

4. You see Facebook and other social media as one of the biggest menaces of modern society.  Granted, I will admit I’ve dealt with enough “Facebook-connected issues” that I sometimes think “Zuckerberg” should be a bad word. But, social media is our reality; it’s our students’ reality. We can’t keep blocking it out with the hopes that it will go away. It will, in some form, outlast us all. Instead, let’s figure out some way to use social media educationally. We all might learn something.

5.  You think learning occurs only within the confines of your building’s classrooms under the direction of your teachers. Our students are learning about things they care about in spite of us. Classrooms are not the only places where student curiosity is satisfied (if they ever were). Our students are engaged in massive learning on their own while sitting with digital devices wherever they happen to be. It’s time to measure learning by something other than seat time and length of class periods. Perhaps we could even figure out a way to channel all that energy to learn to accomplish our educational goals.

School leaders suffering from “obsolete leadership” really do prevent schools from becoming 21st century learning places. Perhaps someday we’ll quit trying to defend the rules and question why the rules exist in the first place. That said, I am positive there are others indicators that could be added to this list.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Clearly from Evernote: Collect Web Content for Your Evernote Notebooks

Clearly from Evernote is yet another one of those quite useful Chrome browser extensions, especially for those who have an Evernote account. One click of the button and a Web article is transformed into a simplified and uncluttered read. Four basic functions make this browser extension and addition to the must-have list for your Chrome browser.
  • The basic function of Clearly is to transform blog posts and Web articles into a format that is easy and clean to read.
  • By connecting Clearly to your Evernote account, you can make that Web content available on any device either connected to the Web or that has the Evernote application installed.
  • Tag articles sent to your Evernote account so that they are easily accessed and retrieved.
  • Change the theme  and the font size to make the article or Web page more readable.
Clearly Interface
Evernote users who want to capture Web content without all the distractions and make it available in all their devices, will love Clearly. For more information, check out the Chrome Web Store.

21stprincipal to Be at NCTIES Conference 2012

Every year for the past four or five years I have attended the North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) Annual Conference. The NCTIES Conference this year will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 7-9, 2012. This is the premier educational technology event in the entire state. NCTIES is the North Carolina affiliate organization to ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). Looking over the NCTIES Conference web site, it promises to be as engaging as ever, with tech experts like Ken Shelton as keynote speaker, and sessions conducted by two others well known in tech circles, Richard Byrne and David Warlick.

I have presented during the concurrent sessions just about every year I have attended, and this year I am scheduled for two concurrent sessions.

On Thursday, March 8:
Becoming a 21st Century Leader: Engaging in World-Wide Conversation on Education: Participants in this session will explore what it means to be a 21st century leader in public education, and the tools that can be used to begin their transformation into 21st century leaders. Focus will be on using Twitter, Google+, Blogging, and other social media to become connected and engaged leaders not just locally but globally.

On Friday, March 9:
Web Tools for Busy School Administrator: Participants in this session will explore web applications such as Evernote, Diigo, Dropbox and others as tools to help administrators carry out the tasks of school leadership. A complete overview of web apps and their potential use in the administrator will be explored.

Just as it has in the past, the NCTIES Conference promises to North Carolina’s best opportunity to engage in an intense but fascinating three days of learning and networking. If you want to go, check out the Conference Web Site.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Easy-to-Use Screen Capture Tool: Awesome Screen Shot

Yesterday, I posted about the “Send to Kindle” extension and how useful it was to Kindle users. Amazingly, there are quite a few other extensions in the Chrome Web Store that are just as useful. One of those versatile Chrome Extensions is the Awesome Screenshot Extension. This is another must-have Extension for the Chrome browser user. (Firefox and Safari users can add the extension to their browsers too.)

The Awesome Screenshot Extension is a tool that allows users to do three basic things: 1) capture a Web page image, 2) annotate and edit that image, and 3) save or share that image. Because Awesome Screenshot can be synced with your Diigo account, you can upload those captured screenshots to there and share them with your groups or followers.

To begin capturing a Web page is as easy as clicking on the Awesome Screenshot button located in the top right-hand corner of your Chrome Browser.

Awesome Screenshot Button
Once you click the browser button, you have three capture choices: capture visible part of the page, capture the selected area, and capture the entire page. Once you select what you wish to capture, it immediately appears in another browser window or tab. From this screen, you can edit, annotate, add arrows, and add shapes. Once you are finished annotating, you can either save the map locally on your computer, save it temporarily on your clipboard, or save it permanently in your Diigo account.

Awesome Screenshot Annotation Screen
Awesome Screenshot is another extremely useful extension for your Web browser. It is available for Firefox and Safari browser users too. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

“Send to Kindle” Extension: Easy Way to Send Web Content to Your Kindle

Yesterday, I posted my favorite Chrome Apps and Extensions, and there was one of those extensions that I just have to mention again, the “Send to Kindle” Extension. I am a converted Kindle user and anything I can employ to increase its functionality, I will use. The “Send to Kindle” Extension is one of those extensions every Kindle user must have.

The “Send to Kindle” Extension basically allows users to read web content on their Kindle devices. For example, suppose I discover a rather long Web article that I would like more time to peruse later. With the “Send to Kindle” extension, I click the browser button, and immediately the article is transformed into a simple form, without the border ads or graphics. I only then need to click the “Send” button, and the article is on its way to my Kindle. It is that easy to use! Tools like this make me think guiltily about the all paper I used to make copies of articles during my research. Just another way to go paper. "Oh the possibilities!"

Send to Kindle Screen

The “Send to Kindle” Extension is a must for those who always have their Kindles close by. Check it out in the Chrome Web Store.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My 11 Favorite Chrome Browser Apps and Extensions

I have not hid the fact that Chrome is my browser of choice, and from the looks of articles like this one, “Google’s Chrome Browser Surging Past Firefox”, it looks many more are beginning to choose the browser as their favorite. One of the features of Chrome that I like are the extensions and the Apps that can be downloaded and used.

Chrome Apps Page
For those not familiar with Chrome extensions and Chrome apps, the difference between the two is that Chrome Extensions run within the browser window from a button located in the upper right hand corner and a Chrome app is an application that runs in its own browser window, usually accessed through an icon on the apps page within the browser. While Firefox offers its users the same experience, I have grown to appreciate the reliability and functionality of the many apps and extensions within my Chrome browser.

While I have posted my favorite Chrome Extensions and apps before, my list of favorites has changed a bit since then. Here's my latest.

Quick Note: Quick note is another one of those apps that make it possible to be paperless. With Quick Note, users can quickly add and edit notes. Notes that are added are fully searchable, and if you have a Diigo account, you can sync those notes to the cloud. That means you can use Diigo’s Web and sharing capabilities to both access your notes and share them with your Diigo groups. Those developing the app indicate in the Chrome Web Store they may integrate the app with other Web tools like Evernote and Dropbox in the near future. Quick Note is a simple to use note taking tool located right in  your browser.

Quick Note
Kindle Cloud Reader: About eight months ago, I became an avid e-book reader. I own two Kindles, and I have the Kindle app on every PC I use and on my iPad. I even have the Kindle app on my Android phone. With the Kindle Cloud Reader, I can access my growing Kindle e-book library even on machines that do not have the Kindle application installed. In addition, the Kindle Cloud Reader has a sleek interface and is so easy to use, there are times when I simply use it to read my books. Currently there are three things I wish I could do in the Kindle Cloud Reader that I can’t do: 1) Highlight text, 2) Enter reading notes, and 3) Access my newsstand items. I can see text I’ve highlighted in other Kindle Apps, but I can’t highlight. Also, there are times a thought occurs to me while reading, and I love being able to attach it to the text. As far as accessing my Newsstand items? I would love to be able to check out my newspaper and magazines from the Kindle Cloud Reader too. Still, reading from the Cloud Reader is a pleasant and easy experience.

Kindle Cloud Reader
Read Later Fast: I’m just learning about the power of this app. I’m always stumbling across a Web article that I just don’t have time to read. With this app, I can post an article to my Diigo account for future reading. I can even include the graphics. Read Later Fast integrates entirely with my Diigo account and adds another level of flexibility to an already versatile web tool. I can open these Web articles using this app and read according to my schedule.

Read Later Fast
Offline Google Mail: This app basically gives me an interface for my Gmail account and allows me access email offline. You can also compose email which is stored and later synced with the Web. Offline Google Mail is an excellent email client right in your Chrome Browser.

Offline Google Mail
Tweetdeck: Tweetdeck also has a Chrome app as well. This app works pretty much like the separate Tweetdeck app. Twitter recently updated this interface to look exactly like its desktop Tweetdeck app. Twitter users will find this app works as well as the other Tweetdeck products.

Here is a list of my favorite Chrome Extensions.

Evernote Clearly: This extension takes a blog post, article or Web page and transforms it into an easy-to-read format and then places it into your Evernote account. That means you can later access these articles with any device running an Evernote app. This is one of the must-have Chrome extensions. I was even able to convert an article to a PDF and send it to my Kindle to read there.

Evernote Clearly Interface
Diigo Toolbar: This extension is one of my most used. I have posted about it before. It allows users to highlight, bookmark, add a sticky note, or share a web page with basically the click of a button. Diigo users will love adding this tool to their browser. An excellent extension that adds even more functionality to your Diigo account.

Diigo Extension Toolbar
Awesome Screenshot: This tool allows users to take snapshots of Web pages and the screen, annotate them, then save them either on the desktop or into your Diigo account. This is a very useful extension for capturing graphics for later sharing. It is also another extension to add functionality to your Diigo account.

Awesome Screenshot
Evernote Web Clipper: There are many times I stumble across a Web page that I might want to share or use later. The Evernote Web Clipper allows users to clip those pages and place them directly into one of their Evernote notebooks. This extension adds functionality to your Evernote account.

Twitter Share This Page: There are quite a few times I find a Web article that I just have to Tweet out. This extension puts a button in my Chrome browser that allows me to do just that. When I find a page to share with my PLN, I can click on this button, edit the outgoing message and just Tweet it out. URL’s are automatically shortened too. Must have extension for Twitter users who use the Chrome browser.

Send to Kindle: This extension allows users to send any Web content they find to their Kindle for later reading. For example, suppose you stumble on an article of length that you would like to spend some time reading later. You can use the Send to Kindle extension to put it on your Kindle.

As more and more Chrome apps and extensions become available, my favorite list grows. Chrome apps and extensions are ways to get the most out of both the browser and your favorite Web tools.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Administrators Can Be Paperless Too: 7 Tools to Make It Happen

I have read a great deal on the web about teachers making their classrooms paperless, which brings the following question to mind: "Why can’t school administration become paperless too?" How many times in the course of my job do I use paper in the line of duty? Is it necessary to have physical copies of everything I do as a school principal? The answer to that last question is a 99% no of course. The 1% are usually district level documents that someone is just not quite comfortable yet with having a cyber-copy only. In reality it is possible to eliminate much of the paper used during the course of carrying out administrator duties, and to do so with inexpensive tools.  Here’s my suggested list of tools to make the role of principal or school administrator paperless too.
  • Google Docs: Google Docs’ sharing feature makes the act of copying and distributing a document of any kind, whether wordprocessing, spreadsheet, or presentation, just plain sinful. For example, if you want to provide your faculty with agenda, why not share a a Google Document version of it with them? Then, just send them an email invite. Or, if you want them to have a copy of a professional development presentation, send them an email invite to it as well. There’s little need to provide staff with copies of documents any more. Of course, the administrator has to be willing to allow staff to use their technology during meetings, but what 21st century school leader is going to ban staff or meeting participants from using technology? Might as well have your meetings in the dark.

  • Email: Of course email is considered just a bit passé by many, but there is no better tool that allows you to put directions and information in writing to your staff. For example, if you need to get procedures to your staff regarding an up-coming open house, send it to them by email. If you need to get a parent message to a teacher, send it by email too. The amazing but simple thing about email is you have a written record of what you sent so there can be no dispute about what was said. But what about the teacher who does not read his email regularly? Sorry, but he wouldn’t survive in my school, and probably not in my district. Perhaps he needs to find a job in the jungle somewhere, away from the 21st century world of technology.
  • Dropbox: Dropbox is another one of those tools that can make school administration paperless. While sharing single documents through Google Docs works well, occasionally there are multiple, lengthy documents or media that I want to share more efficiently. With Dropbox, I can place all those items in a folder and share that folder with whichever staff members need access. For example, I created an accreditation folder in Dropbox that contained all of the data and documents the accreditation team needed and invited them to share that folder. There was no need to make piles of copies of data and documents and place them in folders or notebooks. They had access to everything electronically. Dropbox makes making copies of any major documents an anachronism.

  • Evernote: I don’t even have a yellow legal pad in my possession any more. Evernote’s abilities to give the user a platform to take notes makes tablets (not the electronic kind) a total waste of money. For example, while sitting in a meeting, I can take notes on those proceedings. The features that make Evernote most useful for this are: 1) instant access on any of my technological devices and 2) ability to share the resulting document with anyone else. Evernote has apps for the desktop, smartphones, and all tablets, so getting to your notes is even quicker than digging them out of your briefcase. Being able to share those notes with others either through social media or through email means no trips to the copier when you want to share them. Evernote is the most versatile piece of software in a battle against using paper for adminstrative purposes.

  • Diigo: I only recently began using Diigo more in my role as administrator. I have always shared resources and interesting ideas with staff, but often it was done through either a handout or by email. Email will keep you paperless, but when it comes to sharing links to web resources, Diigo does so much better. I have set up Diigo groups geared to specific staff members and invited them to join. Now, I can post links to Web resources to those groups and because Diigo sends emails when those have been updated, my staff gets updates rather quickly. Diigo is an excellent way to share resources quickly and easily with staff members and even parents.

  • Skype or Google Talk:  Because our entire staff has Skype accounts and is logged in immediately in the mornings, Skype has become an excellent way to share out information even more quickly. For example, if I need to announce a procedural change for an event later in the day, I can get that out instantaneously by sending it out by Skype. Staff can just as quickly ask for clarification too. Google Talk functions in the same manner of course, except it messages individuals rather than groups. Both these tools take away the need to write short notes or memos. These are more tools to keep me away from the copier or from reaching for the notepad.
  • Blogger (Or Other Blog Platform): Having a school newsletter on paper is another anachronistic habit. There are so many ways to create and distribute information in a newsletter-format, it makes no sense to print them any more. Blogging, however, is one of the easiest ways to provide newsletter-like information to staff or parents. A blog gives administrators the ability to share school news with constituent groups quickly and easily, and students can’t lose them on the way home to school. Blogs also allow for the delivery of multimedia content too. That’s something you can’t deliver through a paper copy.
Of course there are other tools out there that could contribute to making the job of school administrator as paperless as possible. These are just some of my personal, most-used tools. If we want to encourage our teachers to become paperless and use the copier less, then as school leaders we need to take the lead and engage in becoming paperless too.

The 21st Principal: 2011 Edublog Best Administrator Blog Nomination Thank You

nominee badge

Nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards are in, and I feel honored that this blog, The 21st Century Principal is among the nominees for Best Administrator Blog.

When I began this blog almost exactly 2 years ago, I was a bit strong on ambition and perhaps a bit weak on just how far I was going to go with blogging. It has been an amazing ride for the past couple of years with all the new connections I've made through both this blog and through Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Blogging has been such an excellent way for this administrator to plug into the global conversation about education, teaching, and technology. I am convinced of its value to me professionally, and I think I am a better educator because of it.

Thanks again for the nomination. I am truly honored to be included in the company of the most connected administrators in the world.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Top 5 Blog Posts for 2011

After looking back over posts made during the course of this past year and examining the number of page views, here's my top five posts for the year.

Amazingly enough, the top post for the year was one I did in November 2010. Here's that one:

Thanks to all those who have shown support by visiting my blog during the past year. Blogging is for administrators!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Principal Seeking CompTIA A+ Certification: Waste of Time or Worthwhile?

This weekend, I began studying for my CompTIA A+ certification. After a great deal of soul-searching, I decided that I wanted to pursue this certification. I have spent quite a few years tinkering with PCs. While this certification does not directly impact my current job as a school administrator, I am finding the challenge of exploring all of the intimate parts of a PC fascinating.

I’ve been a “digital-tinkerer” all the way back to my first Windows 3.1 desktop. As the years and operating systems have passed, I’ve continued that fascination. This weekend my interest was re-ignited when I successfully set up my desktop computer as a print-server. There was a great deal of personal satisfaction when I successfully made it possible to print to my desktop printer from multiple wireless devices, including my laptop.

The techno-geeks out there are probably chuckling a bit at my bravado here, but for me, learning about technology has happened in those moments of experimentation and exploration. There is satisfaction in learning something I did not know before, and for me that captures my whole fascination with computers. There is a great deal to be said about experimentation and exploration in the implementation of technology in education settings.

Is it a waste of time for a principal of a school to seek CompTIA A+ computer certification? I like to think learning is valuable regardless of it’s direct impact on my job performance. After all, is this not adding still another perspective to my understanding of PCs and technology? Perhaps others would say principals seeking such certifications is a waste of time. What do you think?

Friday, December 2, 2011

NC Governor Bev Perdue’s Career and College (Empty) Promise

As a high school principal, it is glaringly clear to me that we’ve got to find a way for high school students to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school. Before the imploding of the economy, and massive budget cuts, my students had several options to earn college credit both online and through a local community college. Now, there are no opportunities for my students to earn college credit.

When Governor Bev Perdue announced a few weeks ago her Career and College Promise program, I was excited because perhaps now,  there was a way for the students at my school to earn college credit. Alas, it was not to be. Governor Bev Perdue’s Career and College Promise program is heavy on the “promise” but weak on the “delivery.”

According to her own web site, the main components of Governor Perdue’s Career and College Promise initiative includes:
  • Students can earn tuition-free course credits toward a four-year degree through North Carolina’s community colleges.
  • Students can earn tuition-free course credits at a North Carolina community college toward an entry-level job credential, certificate, or diploma in a technical career.
  • Cooperative innovative high schools (limited availability) Students begin earning tuition-free college credits as a high school freshman by attending a cooperative innovative high school.
Students may not be paying tuition, but they are still paying “fees” and for textbooks. But let's even look at a more deceptive statement right from the governor's web site:
“Eligible high school students can begin earning credit at a community college campus at no additional cost.”
What is wrong with this statement? It’s the “no additional cost.” According to my local community college, there are additional costs. There is a $26.25 “fee” for each course, and students pay as much as $150 for textbooks.

I understand that my students still are getting college courses much cheaper, but my real problem is how governor's rhetoric misleads the public and especially the parents of my students. I’m the one who has to tell them that Governor Perdue’s “promise” is not entirely true.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TagMyDoc: Interesting Way to Use QR Codes to Share Docs

There is no doubt, the Web is all about sharing documents, and new tools are arising all the time that facilitate our ability to do just that. Recently, someone shared a new Web tool developed called which allows users to share their documents through the use of QR codes.

TagMyDoc basically allows users to use QR codes as a means to share and provide access to documents. For example, during a presentation you want to provide your audience with immediate access to your presentation using their smart devices. With TagMyDoc, you upload the presentation to their web site, and you are given a QR scan code. Make that QR available to your audience and they can immediately access the document. No need to type in lengthy URLs or key words. You can even download their scanner app for your Apple device and scan away. I used my Android scanner and was able to seamlessly access my document. I can easily see how this tool might facilitate the use of smartphone technology in both the school and the classroom.
Currently, TagMyDoc offers both free and relatively inexpensive accounts. Try it out here: Search Tool with Consumer in Mind

All of the resources I've shared in the past on this blog have involved some kind of educational value. During the Holiday shopping season, we all find ourselves looking for tools to help us make the best decisions regarding which products to buy. Recently, someone shared an interesting consumer tool called "Find the Best."

"Find the Best" appears to be a web tool designed with the consumer in mind. Users can use this tool to locate the best rated products in a large number of categories.It is an excellent way to perhaps begin your search for the best items during this holiday season.

Check out for yourself below.